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5 easy ways to become carbon neutral

Local small businesses are leading the way it seems, when it comes to reducing carbon, but we still have a long way to go.

Going green has never been a more popular business pursuit. This has become evident over the last 12 months when, in particular, interest in carbon trading has increased exponentially.

In the past year alone, Carbon Trade Exchange (CTX), a global electronic carbon exchange platform, with members in over 22 countries, has signed up over 50 Australian businesses as clients. Small businesses appear to be particularly interested in becoming carbonneutral, with printers, boutique wineries, recruiters, private car and fleet leasing companies as well as marketers all joining CTX in order to buy credits to carbon offset their footprint.

Besides helping to create a more sustainable environment, there are a few key reasons why businesses are realising the real benefit of reducing their carbon footprint:

1. Corporate social responsibility: Parties along the supply chain and end users are increasingly judging companies on their capacity to be environmentally friendly, which is in turn influencing purchasing decisions. Companies that want a competitive edge in their industry need to be seen as green.

2. Savings: Eliminating energy inefficiency by reducing your electricity consumption or switching to alternative renewable energy sources deliver real costs saved

So how can small businesses with limited budgets and few resources implement a carbon management plan? The best way to assess your company’s impact on the environment, begin offsetting and ultimately minimise your carbon footprint, is to start with the following:

1. Measure your carbon footprint

Measuring your carbon output serves as a process for highlighting any unnecessary costs and inefficiencies in the running of your business. Measurement of your carbon emissions is inexpensive and can be done via a CO2 audit or “Carbon Footprinting”. Audis are generally undertaken based on existing financial information readily available. Besides energy or direct emissions they measure emissions involving travel, supply chain emissions, vehicle use, waste disposal and print/marketing materials.

There are a number of companies in Australia such as Pangolin AssociatesEcoView and Carbon Neutral Australia that offer these services.

 2. Offset your Emissions

Carbon offsetting involves the purchasing of carbon credits, to ‘counter’ your emissions. Credits are sourced from projects that have already reduced or not emitted CO2 or related green house gases. Credits are certified under strict guidelines by major international standards agencies such as The Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard.

These credits authorise you to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide, effectively putting a price on carbon within your business. Carbon credits can be sourced quickly and easily through Carbon Trade Exchange. By purchasing a credit, businesses can minimise their environmental impact in which unavoidable emissions are neutralised through the purchase and “retirement” (cancelation) of carbon credits that fund clean and energy efficient technology projects which would not have been deployed otherwise.

Types of projects creating credits include commercial ventures into renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro), forestry, waste to energy and methane capture, as well as multiple social programs in under developed nations.

3. Review your current practices

Now that you have measured your impact, you can start to look at reducing (rather than just offsetting) your footprint by changing practices in your company. Look at what you are currently doing and then identify if more can be done in those areas and also, which areas you have overlooked. Do not forget to take a broad view, and look at items such as travel and suppliers. Develop goals and a plan of how your company will achieve these. There are some instances in which your emissions cannot be avoided in the regular running off a business. In this instance carbon credits are the solution.

4. Create benchmarks

Tackle emission reduction like any other opportunity in business – with goals and measures. This target needs to be SMART, as in specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Once you have listed your goals, it’s important to work out how you are going to measure them. This ensures that the goals you are setting can actually be seen to be achieved. Listing ways in which you can measure your objectives will also help during the evaluation stage of your carbon management plan.

5. Monitor/evaluate your progress

Evaluation should not just occur once a task is complete. Evaluation and monitoring should happen during each step of the carbon management process. Regular reports showing reduction levels are incredibly useful. Any action that your company makes towards reducing your emission is good, and although some business processes may require some capital and time invested, the long-term returns will always be worthwhile.

Reaping the rewards

Many companies have reported substantial profits within two years of developing a program to go carbon neutral, following engagement with their supply chain, staff, clients and stakeholders to help improve performance.

The social benefits of heading towards carbon neutrality are endless – but more importantly, you will find investors typically prefer socially responsible businesses and suppliers are often prioritised if they are carbon neutral.

Whilst reducing your carbon impact is certainly about embracing a concept or culture, it goes further. Every action taken helps ensure the future of our planet.

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